Kensuke Kondo, the newest member of SofBank, left Nichi-Ham for “the real reason”: “The most important thing is the number of years under contract” and “I am the newest member of Nichi-Ham, not myself. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Kensuke Kondo, the newest member of SofBank, left Nichi-Ham for “the real reason”: “The most important thing is the number of years under contract” and “I am the newest member of Nichi-Ham, not myself.

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Softbank’s Kondo (right) and Takuya Kai strike a “peppermill pose” after their hero interview after beating Chiba Lotte at Softbank’s home base, PayPay Dome, on April 2 (Photo: Kyodo News)

Kensuke Kondo, who was the unquestioned No. 2 pitcher in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) and joined SoftBank this season as an FA transfer, is taking on his old team Nippon Ham for a three-game series.

Kondo hit .370 with NIHAM, where he played for 11 years, and he has a .370 batting average in all. He has a high on-base percentage of .413, thanks in part to his ability to pick the right four pitches. Kondo, who has also served as the president of the players’ union, exercised his overseas free agent (FA) rights acquired last season and signed a large contract with Softbank last December for an estimated total of 5 billion yen over seven years. However, money was not his main concern. A source in the baseball world with knowledge of the situation revealed the following.

I think Kondo wanted to stay with Nichi-Ham if he could. Tsuyoshi Shinjo, who has been in charge of the team since last year, prioritized the first-team lineup, including young and unproven players, so players like Kondo, who had a good track record, were pushed around in the batting order.

There were reports that Kondo’s reason for exercising his FA rights was that he was dissatisfied with the way he was used, but I heard that what Kondo himself was most concerned about was the length of his contract. As long as I am still an active player, I want to play as many years as possible. Softbank offered seven years, but Nichi-Ham offered four years. If Nichi-Ham had offered seven or eight years, the result might have been different. ……”

Last November 8, Kondo announced through Nichiham that he would exercise his FA rights. After that, five teams in the Pacific League, including SoftBank, Orix (which won the Japan championship), Seibu, and Lotte, fought over him, and it took more than a month until he held a press conference at SoftBank on December 14 of the same year. A source mentioned above continued, “He was going to try out for the Majors with SoftBank.

Orix was eager to fill the vacancy left by Masanao Yoshida, who had appealed directly to SoftBank to challenge the majors, and Seibu was eager to fill the vacancy left by Tomoya Mori, who had transferred to Orix as an FA player and would play for them starting this season. Softbank reportedly offered over 3 billion yen for 6 years, Orix 3 billion yen for 6 years, and Seibu 2.4 billion yen for 6 years. Although the focus tends to be on the amount of money, the length of the contract is longer than that of NIHAM, reflecting the wishes of the player.

After hearing these conditions, Kondo again sat down to negotiate with NIHAM, but even at that meeting, the length of the contract remained the same at four years. He was shocked by this. The contract offered by a baseball team reflects the team’s evaluation of and feelings toward the player.

In order to eliminate mental irregularities, I started “mental vision training” recommended by Masami Matsushima, a clinical psychologist, at the end of ’16. He met Matsushima after consulting with the Nichi-Ham team trainer (courtesy of Matsushima).

Kondo was drafted fourth overall by Nippon Ham from Yokohama High School in 2012. At the time, the focus of attention was on Shuhei Takahashi (Chunichi), a high school player who hit 71 home runs and was the first overall pick of three teams. He also has the agility to react to a pitcher’s wild pitch, and he has shown a flair for defense. One Nichi-Ham alumnus revealed, “Kondo has always been a type of player who tries to push himself in every direction.

He has always been the type of player who tries to push himself in everything he does. After joining Nichi-Ham, he was the type of player who, from a young age, would practice not only after the other players had gone home, but also until just before the dormitory staff and backstage equipment staff went home. After a few years in the pros, he started having difficulty sending off pitches only when he played as a catcher, but his pushy personality may have come out badly in that part of his life. However, even in the WBC, where he won the world championship, he was assigned to the batting order one spot ahead of Otani (Shohei) and was able to maintain a batting average of over 40%, probably because he honed his extraordinary batting sense through his enthusiasm for practice.

Even when Kondo was having trouble sending pitches out, Nichi-Ham continued to use him at positions other than catcher, such as the outfield, to take advantage of his extraordinary hitting sense. In the Japan Series against Hiroshima in 2004, Kondo played in the outfield. Early in the second game, Ryosuke Kikuchi came running in from third base on a right-fly ball, trying to touch home first, and Kondo made a laser-beam throw from the lights to get him out and prevent the game from going to Hiroshima.

Kondo’s comments about his debt to Nichi-Ham, saying, “The team that acquired me and brought me up to this level,” were probably sincere and honest. A source close to the baseball team revealed, “Kondo has made a name for himself since his third year as a pro.

Naoyuki Uesawa, who emerged from his third year as a professional and became an ace right fielder, and Tsuyoshi Matsumoto, who broke through in his 11th year as a professional and became the first top hitter last season, were both high school graduates who were drafted in the 2011 draft and joined the same team. If Kondo was convinced to stay with Nichi-Ham, he thought, “The three of us can lead the team. Baseball players have a strong sense of camaraderie among those in the same grade.”

Last year, when Shinjo met with Kondo and asked him to stay with Nichi-Ham, he asked him during the conversation, “Is there anything you want to ask me? He asked not about himself, but about the reinforcement of foreign players for the new season because he was concerned about NIHAM’s strength. Kondo has always put the team’s victory first. He may be sad that he did not get as much “love” from NIHAM as he thought he would. However, Kondo, who is now a member of a team that always aims to win, has probably found a new sense of fulfillment in his job, as he stated, “I want to aim for the team’s victory and Japan’s No. 1 position rather than my own personal goals.

Matsushima’s training. Shuffling by memorizing numbers and marks. Following the cards with your eyes enhances your ability to accurately retrieve the necessary information.
Eye exercises to compare the thumbs of both hands in short, constant senses.
Just looking at the fingertips of your thumbs alternately for a few minutes will help you develop your dynamic vision. You can easily do this on a moving bus or in a hotel.” (Photo taken during Nichi-Ham days)
A photo taken at a dinner during the Miyazaki training camp in February (taken from Yu Darvish’s Instagram, darvishsefat11)

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